Upclose with basketball star Silalei Shani
Upclose with basketball star Silalei Shani
She’s one of the few players in the KBF League who play in the post position and also converts at an outstanding rate. Of late, she has added mid-range jumpers to her moves making her more threatening to her opponents. As it is, she plays inside, the defense knows what she’s going to do but they still, even on double team, can’t stop her because of her body position that she uses to get shots and convert at an incredibly high percentage.
Silalei Shani entered the Kenyan Basketball arena mid 2010 and to date she has lived to shape herself a respectable name as one of the most promising basketball players in Kenya.
Her’s is a story many Basketball lovers have wanted to demystify since she first graced Kenyan basketball scenes.Michezoafrika.com took time out to spend with the Eagles wings’ player Silalie Shani with a motive of demystifying her background.
MICHEZOAFRIKA: Hello Silalei and thank you for taking your time to talk to us, Let us start with an introduction of who you are.
SILALEI:Am a proud Kenyan, my dad is a Maasai from Oloitoktok and my mum is dholuo from Chemelil.I was born in Kenya but the nature of my dad’s profession -who works for World Vision - forced us to move to Zambia as he was transferred when I was five years old. We later moved to Mauritania, Senegal and eventually settled in USA for a long time.
MICHEZOAFRIKA:When did you start playing basketball?
SILALEI: I have a very long history of basketball but it started in Zambia when I was seven years old. I owe all my inspiration to my mum who bought us our first ball. My dad is the one who played basketball and luckily in all places we lived, my dad had a court and a rim in the backyard where we could train each day.
MICHEZOAFRIKA:So, is it your dad who taught you basketball or your mum?
SILALEI: I can say both of them had a hand in supporting our development in basketball. My mum introduced it and encouraged us to play each day from school but my dad took it up to teach us the fundamentals at a very young age.Being a former player, he also used to join us in playing frequently. But my height comes from my mum’s side and my hop is from my day’s Maasai background.
MICHEZOAFRIKA:So from Zambia what was the next stop?
SILALEI: From Zambia we moved to Senegal where we stayed for seven years and since we had grown to love basketball, our dad again built the court and rim for us in the backyard before we shifted base to America.
MICHEZOAFRIKA:Did you play active basketball in USA?
SILALEI:In America basketball is the childhood sport where almost everyone knows how to play. But I did not play much until when I joined The Messiah College in Grantham Pennsylvania where I also graduated with a degree in Human Resource Management. But it was not until the second year that my coach started noticing my consistent and persistent performance. The competition in American college basketball is very high but I was willing to wait and work harder to gain my coach’s confidence.
MICHEZOAFRIKA: Was it hard to break the ranks to the main team
SILALEI:Being the only black in the team, there were many challenges but my team mates were very good to me I can say. It was hard for me at first but then I encouraged myself not to quit the team and eventually I broke through to get a good number of playtime. I even won the second spot with my team in the All conference in 2008 and became the only black player to ever play in the main college team for four years.
MICHEZOAFRIKA :Did you ever face racism while playing in the team
SILALEI:Of course being the only black player in the team more so a Kenyan, one could expect me to be discriminated by the fact that I was black.Many people discouraged me and advised me to quit but I held on because my team mates were very accommodating and understanding. By the third year, I had broken into the college’s main starting team to win the championship final game in 2008.I was also the best defensive player in the team in my final year.
MICHEZOAFRIKA:Did you ever get a chance to be approached by professional teams in USA after graduating?
SILALEI: There was this team that really wanted me to sign up with them in Italy for the professional league but I did not think that was the right thing for me to do.Infact I had never contemplated taking basketball as a career.
MICHEZOAFRIKA:So what happened after school
SILALEI: Am a Kenyan and having been away from my parent’s country almost my entire life, I wanted to come back to my native land to just immerse myself in my traditional culture, learn Swahili and understand the people better.USA is a great country but by the time I was finishing college, the economic crunch had just hit the world and getting a job was very hard. My parents had also moved to London by then and I just wanted to get time for myself back here in Kenya. So far am loving it and I really look forward to getting a stable job right here.
MICHEZOAFRIKA:Do you look at going back to America
SILALEI: Honestly, what I got in Kenya and my experience is amazing and I don’t think I wish to go back. Am currently looking for a job here and am willing to stay for as along as it takes me.
MICHEZOAFRIKA:How did you start playing for Eagle Wings
SILALEI: I landed at Eagle Wings by accident in July 2010 courtesy of my cousin, he asked me whether I wanted to play basketball and having missed the game so much I accompanied him to their training base. Funny enough after the day’s training session, they took me in and requested me to join them for their league matches. Having it in me, I didn’t turn the offer down and one year down the line, I love the team, it makes me feel so much at home.
MICHEZOAFRIKA: About your relationship?
SILALEI: Oohh my God I saw that coming but am not ashamed to say am in a very stable and good relationship with my boyfriend, Kabaka Owuor.He has helped me to maintain focus in life and he helped me a lot to adjust to the Kenyan lifestyle. He has always been there for me and above all he appreciates and understands my strong belief in my God and religion. He is an inspiration and I thank him for his presence.
MICHEZOAFRIKA: What is your word to upcoming basketball players?
SILALEI: To the young, if they enjoy what they are doing and if they have passion for basketball, they should just keep playing and one day they will definitely get noticed. They should also maintain discipline, believe in God and study hard in school because through basketball they can get very good scholarships from established colleges and universities over seas.
MICHEZOAFRIKA: Where do you see Kenyan basketball in the next one year?
SILALEI: Honestly I think we are in the right direction though still far beyond matching the standards that have been set out there. The administration needs to set up the right structures to tap the youth from a tender age, teach them the fundamentals of basketball at the age of between 10-12.Even Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant started at very tender ages of less than ten years. This is the time the kids can easily soak in the fundamentals just like a sponge soaks in water.
MICHEZOAFRIKA:Thank you very much Silalei for your time and we wish you all the best in your career.
SILALEI:Thank you very much too and I appreciate your great work of promoting sports especially at the grassroots, count on me anytime when you need support with the young ones, Am more than willing to be a part of the development of basketball.